Sunday Life

Ard lessons
Riot ringleaders sought by cops AND Provos

18 July 2004

NATIONALIST rioters who clashed with the police and Army in north Belfast on the Twelfth fear they may be targeted by punishment gangs.

Hundreds of youths and older males got stuck into the cops and soldiers after Orangemen and UDA hangers-on - including senior UDA figure, John 'Bonzer' Borland - were allowed to pass the shops at Ardoyne Road.

They now fear a 'double whammy' punishment, as both the police and Provo enforcers single out the ringleaders involved in the disturbances.

Trouble broke out as loyalists and nationalists pelted each other with missiles.

Several top Provos were in the nationalist crowd, joining Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly in calls for calm as the rioters turned on the police and Army.

Among them was Shankill bomber Sean Kelly.

He was spotted close to the Sinn Fein MLA as he spoke to the media, just before the Orange march was due to pass back in front of the Ardoyne shops.

And as the violence erupted, the IRA's former OC in the Ardoyne area, Eddie 'Bubbles' Copeland, was clearly seen telling nationalist rioters NOT to attack the Army.

Gerry Kelly suffered a broken wrist when he was struck by a baton while trying to form a barrier between rioters and cops.

A group of rioters also isolated a number of soldiers, who were beaten with their own batons.

Their Land-Rovers were also ransacked and equipment, including baton rounds, stolen.

Sources in the area now fear a backlash by IRA supporters on those identified as ringleaders in the trouble that left 35 police and soldiers injured.

They ignored the calls from senior Provos and Sinn Fein not to get caught up in clashes.

It could prove to be a double-whammy punishment for the youths, who attacked in full view of PSNI cameras, as well as television cameras.

And a source close to INLA leaders in the area said: "People in the district are furious that the parade was allowed to pass, and angry that Sinn Fein were trying to tell them that they didn't have the right to defend their area.

"It's a disgrace that the PSNI are able to force UDA men through the area, but for them to be helped by so-called republicans is worse.

"The anger will only increase, if these people are singled out by the Provos for defending their area."

A spokesman for the 32 County Sovereignty Committee - the political wing of the Real IRA - claimed that the rioters would have "a black mark" against their names, or be labelled "trouble-makers", for their part in the attack on Paratroopers.

A PSNI spokesman confirmed that video footage of the riot was being examined and that prosecutions were likely to follow.

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